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Area Church Camps are expanding use through winterization and using social media to keep contact

Camp Spalding
Camper climbs on Camp Spalding ropes course.

Andy Sonneland, executive director of Camp Spalding outside Newport, said that it had record numbers of campers in 2008. During the recession, camper numbers fell 22 percent, but have grown back to near-record levels.

“The decline caused us to market broadly in the community beyond our historic and main constituency in the Presbyterian Church USA.  We have used billboards and underwriting KPBX, among other marketing efforts.

“We have also seen a significant increase from families outside our denomination,” Andy said.

Camp Spalding is in the midst of a $1 million capital campaign to enhance and expand what they do.  They are developing a nature pavilion by the water to expand the camp’s nature program and as a year-round meeting space for 50.  The campaign also includes landscaping to create a creek-side park in the center of the camp with plants and seating as an inviting space for small groups and for sitting in solitude.  There will also be a new entry area and a $150,000 endowment for financial aid for low-income campers.  Part of the campaign will purchase property to create another campsite to the north.

Andy estimates that 75 percent of campers and about 40 percent of summer staff come back each year.  Camp lets young people get away for a week in a beautiful natural setting with college-age role models enthusiastic about faith.

“For many, camp is the best week of the year,” he said.  “I’m optimistic long-term about church camping.”

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Facebook connects campers all year with camp

N-Sid-Sen winter sunset
N-Sid-Sen has kept up year-round camp consciousness on Facebook, such as by photos of enticing sunsets, winterscapes and other scnes aroudnt eh 270 acres.

The number of registrations coming in to N-Sid-Sen on the east shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene is strong and most of the volunteer directors are returning.

“Get Real with Jesus” is the theme for the 2014 curriculum.

N-Sid-Sen is looking to launch a capital campaign to build a tunnel under Highway 27 so campers can more safely use the other side of the road, where 200 of the camp’s 270 acres are.

With access, Mark Boyd, director, said they plan to rebuild the ropes course there and will build tent platforms, so some of the campers can stay in the more remote area up the hill with a view.  They will prepare their own meals and stay there for two days of their week.

“We want the campers to realize there is more to the camp than the waterfront,” he said.

“When campers come, I see that returning campers feel immediately at home, and new campers are readily welcomed so they relax,” Mark said.  “The camp belongs to all of us, so everyone should feel welcome and at home.”

Mark tells campers there are two rules:  “1) You have to have fun.  2) If you see someone who is not having fun, you have to share some of your fun.”

Year round, he now uses Facebook to keep connected with campers and people in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ.

“It’s a way to keep in contact when I’m out here alone in the beautiful setting and to remind people of its beauty,” said Mark, who also has used Facebook to introduce the new camp dog.

Along with Facebook, he has been connecting with people in the United Church of Christ congregations that are part of the Pacific Northwest UCC Conference, particularly east of the Cascades.

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Diocese winterizes camp to extend the season

Camp Cross crafts
Counselor and Camper work on craft project at Camp Cross

The Episcopal Diocese of Spokane’s Camp Cross on the western shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene has two projects underway in 2014.

One is to winterize part of the water system to expand the season for using the camp from February to November for small retreats and community groups.  It would make it possible to use the kitchen, conference facility and bathrooms for a longer season.

Access is by boat, so when winter hits, the camp has to close.  This year, it opened the third week of April.  The first session was May 16, the annual Labor of Love Retreat to help set up the camp, clean, put the canoes out.

The other project is the camp’s five garden beds and three compost bins, which are being used to teach campers about sustainable growing, so they can grow their own food and make compost.

“We are building the outdoor education program to acquaint campers with what surrounds us here,” said Colin Hafner, executive director.  “We have five trees native to Idaho on our grounds that are surrounded by the lake.  We will teach campers to identify trees and plants, and to take care of the water and ecosystems here.”

Camp Cross is drawing more campers and involving them in meaningful experiences so they invite friends, he said.

“We have leaders from the diocese.  Each camp has clergy and program leaders, exploring the theme, ‘Share Your Treasure,’ to help campers realize their unique abilities and God-given talents. Leaders take the theme and build the program from there.”

Another change is adding a day to the young adult weekend retreat that has been held at Camp Cross for eight years.

“We want to encourage young adults to continue camping,” Colin said. 

“Camp does not have to end with graduating from high school.  It’s hard to find a time for that age group, so we will hold it July 27 to 30 to be before semester colleges start in August,” he said.

“We have a good base of campers who come back every year and bring friends,” he said.  “It’s an experience outdoors in a caring community, benefiting from the spirituality of being outdoors, not connected with cell phones, TVs or computers.  It’s an opportunity to ‘disconnect.’”

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Copyright © June 2014 - The Fig Tree